Building upon efforts started by its LGBTQ employees, Partners HealthCare has added gender identity and gender expression to its equal employment opportunity policy, taking a leadership role as a major corporation to clarify transgender rights and help provide a road map to employees in transition.

A 2016 survey by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated 1.4 million Americans, about 0.6 percent of the population, identify as transgender, including approximately 29,990 Massachusetts residents. At the same time, gender identity and expression have been at the center of political debates over the use of public accommodations.

It was in this context that Partners developed the new policy statement to provide definitions of gender identity/expression and addressed issues of confidentiality and privacy as well as restroom/locker use and insurance. In addition, the Partners Office of Diversity and Inclusion has developed a Toolkit for Transitioning Colleagues: What You Need to Know regarding Gender Identity/Expression. The toolkit addresses logistical, practical and emotional supports for transgender or gender transitioning staff and their managers and colleagues. 

"It's not about being politically correct. It's about being kind," says Troy Keyser, a transgender man and Health Information Technology Manager at Partners Innovation who transitioned in 2014. He was part of a team working to develop guidelines and a checklist to assist colleagues dealing with deeply personal issues within a workplace setting.

The process gained speed when another employee in transition came to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion looking for assistance, says Dani Monroe, Partners Chief Diversity Officer. It triggered a "perfect storm" where she discovered two groups had been working on policies at Brigham & Women's Faulkner Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital for 18-24 months, generating proposals that had been reviewed and approved by senior leaders.

"People want to do the right thing but are very confused," adds Melinda Strauss, Corporate EAP Consultant, Partners Employee Assistance Program. "They are hungry to learn more. It's not just about policy and legal requirements but good manners." 

“It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about being kind.”

Keyser notes people in transition face a myriad of headaches at work and beyond in recording new identities, from alphanumeric computer logins and security badge photos to changing information with Social Security, the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Passport Office.

Clearly spelling out those tasks and offering hints about the "confusion and stress" involved in dealing with them is an important component of the checklist designed to assist employees and managers, he says.

The new policy has been embraced across the organization, says Joe Cabral, Partners Chief Human Resources Officer.

"The line between work and home has become blurred. It's not work and life, it's work life," he says.

"Partners takes pride in clinical firsts, but we also see ourselves as first in coming out in support of policies that help our employees."

"Partners HealthCare has been and continues to be an advocate for diversity and equal employment opportunities," adds Monroe. "By providing a respectful work environment, we are giving all employees the opportunity to achieve the highest professional success—for our patients and for themselves."